Money in the Bank 2018, hailing from the Allstate Arena just outside of Chicago, kicks off the summer in the world of WWE with a card full of matches that should dramatically change the trajectory of Raw and SmackDown. The centerpiece of the show is a pair of eight-person Money in the Bank ladder matches, with one man and one woman earning a world title shot at the time of their choosing at any point over the next year -- and potentially as soon as the same night.
There's also the matter of Ronda Rousey's first title shot in WWE against Raw women's champion Nia Jax, the culmination of months of tension between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka's challenge of Carmella for the SmackDown women's championship, for starters. Add a raucous Chicago crowd and the history tied to the Allstate Arena, and by the end of the night, the road to August's SummerSlam pay-per-view will be well in sight.
Tim Fiorvanti covered the action throughout the night with assistance from Matt Wilansky and ESPN Stats & Info's Sean Coyle. This file was updated in real time.
Braun Strowman wins men's Money in the Bank match (defeating Kofi Kingston, Samoa Joe, The Miz, Finn Balor, Rusev, Bobby Roode and Kevin Owens)
As their names were called, there was a palpable sense that probably six competitors in this eight-man crucible had a legit shot to walk away with the biggest carrot of the wrestling year and a free shot at the WWE title.
One of those six stood out most: Braun Strowman, the biggest, baddest, most intimidating monster in the business. Strowman has been waiting for a moment in a high-end pay-per-view, and his reign of terror with Nicolas at WrestleMania hardly was going to cut it.
But Braun had a problem Sunday night. The other seven men had a simple plan: gang up on Strowman, beat him, kick him, whatever him until he was rendered incapacitated.
Would it work? No, not well enough.
In the beginning, though, Strowman was a nonfactor for the reasons listed above. He was attacked and hurt by the other foes and was buried underneath a pile of ladders. Keeping him isolated gave the other performers time to shine -- and climb ladders. This included Kofi Kingston, the lucky member of the New Day, who was selected as their guy. And why not? He's an aerial genius.
The Miz nearly ended the bout quickly as he surreptitiously stood in the ring by himself as the others focused on Strowman outside the ring. As Miz climbed the ladder toward the briefcase, Samoa Joe made a beeline to the ring and knocked the stuffing out of the Miz, who fell to the mat. There was no shortage of incredible spots from there.
The focus seemingly continued to shift back to Kofi, who early on in the match dove into five of his opponents' competitors on the outside of the ring. That group caught Kofi and was poised to have their revenge when Balor flipped over the top rope to accomplish the same mission. Balor celebrated and went to retrieve a ladder when something prevented him from bringing it back into the ring. That something was Strowman. Strowman took out Balor and Roode and stared down the rest of the field.
Kevin Owens and others then ganged up on Strowman again. Owens climbed the highest ladder in the place and looked for a frog splash with Samoa Joe and Rusev holding down Strowman in place on top of a table. Strowman got out of the hold and off the table. He started to climb the ladder to catch up to Owens, who began to climb down in order to escape.
Owens begged for Strowman to let him get off the ladder, but instead, Strowman brought him back up and tossed Owens off and through a table in a Shane McMahon-esque kind of fall. That was it for Owens in this match.
Back in the ring, Rusev thrilled the crowd with a two-person then three-person Accolade, but that was just for show. Samoa Joe stopped that hold, then fell victim to the other ensuing chaos.
Minutes later, Strowman approached the ladder to stop a climbing Balor. As Finn went up, Kingston jumped from the ropes onto Strowman's back to try to stop him. Both Balor and Kingston eventually found the mat, leaving Strowman the only one staring at the briefcase.
From there, all Strowman needed were those hands.
Alexa Bliss cashes in during Ronda Rousey-Nia Jax match, wins Raw Women's Championship
A complete recap of this match can be found here.
Last Man Standing for the WWE championship: AJ Styles (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura
This matchup was one all WWE fans were looking forward to heading into WrestleMania 34. Two months later and with mediocre results, the feud had seemingly run its course ... until tonight. They entered Chicago to contend for the WWE Championship for the fourth straight WWE pay-per-view event. It was just the fourth time in WWE history that the same two superstars competed one-on-one for the WWE title at four consecutive pay-per-views. But once again, it ended without the title changing hands.
This version was a Last Man Standing match, and it commenced with some crisp, strike-heavy offense out of both men. The first big blow came when Styles yanked Nakamura over the top rope and nailed a slingshot forearm to the outside of the ring. Nakamura responded with a back body drop onto the steel entrance ramp, but Styles answered referee Mike Chioda's count at six.
Nakamura continued the onslaught, slamming Styles headfirst into the steel ring steps and tossing him into the crowd. Styles battled back, but as he springboarded atop the barricade, Nakamura swept his feet, dropping him to the mat outside the ring.
When they re-entered, Styles caught Nakamura as he leaped off the middle rope with a dropkick, followed it up with a flurry of strikes and then planted the challenger face-first onto the canvas. As Nakamura rose to his feet, he attempted what has become his signature low blow, but Styles sidestepped it.
A few sequences later, as Styles attempted a phenomenal forearm, Nakamura kicked Styles' feet out from under him, sending him to the outside of the ring -- and then the announcer's table came into play. After tossing Styles onto one of the tables, Nakamura stormed across the two other tables and nailed his Kinsasha knee strike, but Styles made it to his feet at the count of nine.
The table trend continued when Nakamura pulled a table out from under the ring and ended up viciously tossing Styles through it and into the turnbuckle, but Styles once again made it to his feet.
The tide turned when one of the top turnbuckles was removed, and Styles escaped a charging Nakamura who went knee first into the exposed steel. Styles locked in a calf-crusher and released it, but Nakamura answered the 10 count.
A frustrated Styles obtained a steel chair and smashed it against Nakamura's knee on the outside of the ring multiple times. As Nakamura begged Styles to stop, he proceeded to catch him with a low blow, and as Styles got back to his feet, he was immediately met with another Kinsasha. Once again, though, the champ rose to his feet at nine.
His response was brutal as he nailed the Styles clash off of the ring steps onto the outside of the ring, but somehow, Nakamura made it up at nine. As Nakamura pleaded for more, Styles caught him with a low blow of his own and decided to end the madness. He re-entered the ring and nailed a phenomenal forearm to the outside of the ring, driving Nakamura through the announcer's table, and that was all she wrote.
Styles' retaining the WWE Championship likely brings this multi-month rivalry to a close, but it ended on an excellent note.
SmackDown women's championship: Carmella (c) def. Asuka
It would've been a dramatic upset had Carmella beaten Asuka cleanly to defend her SmackDown women's championship. It also would've been an abrupt moment for the SmackDown women's division to change directions with a new champion, so the question remained: How could it all play out?
That question was answered late in the match, when a shadowy figure slowly climbed up the stairs and onto the apron, distracting both Asuka and Carmella for a few moments. After a failed roll-up attempt by Carmella earned her a knee to the face, Asuka stared the unknown person down until the slow reveal.
It was Carmella's longtime compatriot, James Ellsworth, who is back after a few months away from the WWE to give Carmella the chance to walk out with her championship intact. With the distraction, Carmella recovered, nailed a superkick to Asuka's face and earned the pinfall victory in one fell swoop. As they celebrated all the way back up the ramp, it felt like closure.
One year after Ellsworth played a key part in Carmella's winning both of the first two women's Money in the Bank ladder matches, he was essentially whitewashed from Carmella's story upon his unexpected release. With his return, Carmella has both a character to play off and a device by which to build up heat and anger with the crowd at levels she hasn't quite reached since Ellsworth departed.
As for the match itself, it was a solid if not great effort all around. Carmella slowed things down for the bulk of the contest, and every time Asuka grabbed the momentum, she was vicious and thorough with hip attacks, backfists and other strikes from her arsenal. Carmella had a few bright moments of her own, with a jawbreaker on the top rope leading directly into a low sideways suicide dive.
Asuka afforded herself plenty well, but after yet another loss, she's coming dangerously close to Becky Lynch levels of leaning toward the losing side with little end in sight. Whether Asuka continues her SmackDown women's championship push in light of this match's ending is anyone's guess, but she needs a solid direction toward recovering some momentum -- and soon.
Roman Reigns def. Jinder Mahal
Coming off an extended rivalry with Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship and a brief encounter with Samoa Joe at last month's Backlash event, Roman Reigns finds himself immersed in a stagnant program with Jinder Mahal. The conflict has done little for either superstar, but they trudged forward looking to add the first compelling chapter to what has otherwise been a flop of a feud. Unfortunately, this one fell flat with a predictable ending.
Working through some early "CM Punkm," "boring" and "NXT" chants from the Chicago crowd, the first big move of the match saw Reigns execute a Samoan drop to Mahal. However, after Reigns missed his drive-by dropkick, Sunil Singh, who was wheeled to the ring in a wheelchair and wearing both a sling and a neck brace, magically rose to his feet and shoved Reigns into the ring post. Advantage Mahal.
Mahal continued to maintain the advantage in the ring, working at an incredibly slow pace as the crowd grew even more restless. After an abundance of rest holds, Mahal missed a knee drop, and Reigns began his inevitable comeback. The Chicago crowd wasn't interested and began to do the wave, but Reigns plugged away until Mahal scored with a flying knee. A few sequences later, he hit Reigns with an impressive gut buster for a two count.
Reigns charged forward and connected with a superman punch, but it wasn't enough, as Mahal kicked out of the ensuing pinfall attempt as the crowd randomly began chanting "Y2J."
Mahal turned the tide once again when he caught Reigns with a kick to the jaw as he was charging in for a spear and sent him shoulder-first into the ring post. But Reigns recovered quickly and hit the drive-by dropkick he missed earlier in the match. Singh once again tried to interfere, but Reigns didn't bite this time, and Singh received a superman punch and a spear for his troubles.
Shortly after, Mahal suffered the same fate, taking a spear and, three seconds later, the loss.
Hopefully, this was the closing chapter to what has been a dreadful rivalry. Chicago didn't want to see this match, and I imagine most of the WWE universe echoed those sentiments. It's time for Reigns and Mahal to go their separate ways.
Women's Money in the Bank ladder match: Alexa Bliss def. Charlotte Flair, Lana, Natalya, Naomi, Becky Lynch, Ember Moon and Sasha Banks
Just a couple of months removed from losing the Raw Women's Championship to Nia Jax at WrestleMania 34, Alexa Bliss thrust herself back into the Raw Women's Championship picture Sunday night by winning the women's Money in the Bank briefcase.
After a replay of last year's women's Money in the Bank match, the third such match in WWE history stepped up the physicality from the opening bell -- and left the outcome of the match a mystery until the closing moments.
There was a mad scramble early, and it was ultimately Ember Moon who made the first attempt to get a ladder in the ring. Moon did her springboard cross-body onto Sasha Banks, which sent Banks falling back-first into a ladder on the ground -- the first bump that brought a noticeably loud reaction from the crowd. Lana soon slid in and got a similarly loud reaction as she hit a facebuster to Moon onto that same ladder that lay in the middle of the ring.
Natalya scoop-slammed Lana onto that ladder and then dropped Naomi legs-first and stomped on her back using that same ladder that just kept coming into play. This brought Charlotte Flair back into the ring to push Natalya -- reigniting Flair's first major WWE rivalry -- but Natalya soon ceded in favor of Flair facing down another friend-turned-rival-turned-friend, Becky Lynch. As they played tug-of-war with a ladder, Naomi used it to jump onto Natalya and, without missing a beat, bounded off the ropes and hit a dropkick that sent the ladder into the faces of both Lynch and Flair.
After a blockbuster from the apron to the floor on Banks, Naomi slowly stirred to her feet at the same time as Moon -- with Lynch quickly joining the mix. As Naomi and Moon fought over the ladder, which was nearly perpendicular to the ground, Lynch climbed most of the way up -- only to quickly pay the price as the ladder went crashing down into the corner.
Moon hip-tossed a running Naomi into a ladder set up in the corner -- another strategically placed weapon that would continue to play a factor -- and that was Banks' cue to get back into it. After leaving Moon lying on a small ladder on the bottom rope, Banks positioned Lana on the middle rope and stomped the both of them at once.
Banks became the first to attempt to climb in earnest, only for Flair to come back into the ring as the two long-separated rivals went after each other and the briefcase in the ring.
Flair landed the first blow with a twice-twisting neckbreaker, but after another mad scramble, Banks attempted to scale the ladder -- and got booed along the way by the Chicago crowd. When Lynch got back into the ring and started to climb, there were uproarious cheers -- the loudest for anyone outside of perhaps Lana. After a long period with just a rotating cast of two women at a time, the numbers started to pile up in the ring. Banks and Lynch stood atop one ladder, while Lana set up a second, taller ladder and started to climb up that.
Everyone got involved. Moon got onto a ladder, too, while Natalya and Banks took turns pulling each other down. Natalya ultimately powerbombed Banks into the shorter ladder, which also sent Lynch tumbling out, and as Moon and Lana battled atop the ladder, Flair got back into the picture while Bliss played defense. Flair plucked Moon off the ladder and powerbombed her onto a second ladder perched on one of the turnbuckles, and then, as she attempted to do something similar to Bliss, the latter hit a Code Red to take Flair out of the picture.
For a moment, Lana stood alone in the ring, but rather than scale the ladder, she locked her husband's signature move -- the Accolade -- onto Bliss to great cheers.
As Lana finally scaled the ladder, Naomi springboarded to the top of the other side, kicked Lana in the head and sent her out of the ring. Lynch disrupted Naomi's climb and took her out, and as she climbed the ladder, Flair fought her way up to the top as the briefcase hung just over their heads.
Bliss inserted herself into the picture, but after a spear, Flair was the only one left in the ring. Banks hit a Banks statement to take out Flair, while Naomi slammed Banks face-first into the ladder to again shift the balance. Lana took out Naomi, and Natalya took out Lana. Moon took out Natalya, and then Flair re-entered, spearing Moon into one of the corner ladders.
After one final mad scramble, it was back to Lynch and Flair -- and with a Bex-sploder, it appeared that the long-suffering Lynch would finally get a much-needed shot in the arm by taking home the Money in the Bank briefcase. But as she climbed to the top and got the briefcase in hand, Bliss slid back in the ring, tipped the ladder over and claimed the briefcase for herself.
The fate of the Raw Women's Championship later in the show will likely dictate how long Bliss holds onto the briefcase, and only time will tell what it will mean for the rest of the Raw women's division.
Intercontinental championship: Seth Rollins (c) def. Elias
No one in the WWE is performing at a higher level than Seth Rollins right now. His Intercontinental championship reign has felt important not just because Brock Lesnar and the Universal Championship has been MIA but also because Rollins has torn the house down each and every time he has stepped into the ring.
Across the ring from him in Chicago was one of the fastest rising stars on the main roster in Elias. The potential seems limitless for Elias. He can work in the ring, and his musical performances are heat-generating machines. Adding some gold to his repertoire would improve his standing even more. After his match against Rollins, it looks like a no-brainer that that will happen -- even if he fell just short Sunday.
After some mat wrestling filled with reversals, Rollins and Elias traded strikes highlighted by a flawless dropkick by the architect. He followed that with some aerial attacks including a springboard clothesline to the challenger. Elias fought back, though, nailing a vicious clothesline to Rollins, who took a rough tumble on the ring apron.
Elias continued the aggression and began to target Rollins' neck, including a spike DDT on the champ. The sound game plan continued as Elias locked in a cobra clutch on Rollins, wearing down the neck further.
After Elias thwarted a couple Rollins comebacks, Rollins was able to land a sling blade followed up by a suicide to the outside onto Elias and then a blockbuster back inside the ring. However, after Rollins missed a springboard attempt, seemingly injuring his knee, Elias nailed him with a knee to the jaw of his own, and the pace quickened.
A strike fest ensued, a battle Rollins won when he delivered a picture-perfect kick to Elias' face. The hobbled champion then ascended the top rope looking for a frog splash, but Elias raised his knees, catching Rollins in the gut. Rollins remained resilient, though, and performed his always impressive top rope superplex/falcon arrow combination. But it wasn't enough.
Shortly after, Elias made a comeback of his own, catching Rollins as he attempted another suicide dive. He tossed Rollins into the ring post, then the steel steps, before landing a top-rope elbow drop, but it wasn't enough.
After Rollins' knee gave way when attempting a running buckle bomb, the two traded roll-up attempts, and aided by his grabbing of Elias' belt, Rollins snuck in a three count, winning the match and retaining his title.
It was a strong showing for both men. We've gotten accustomed to these types of performances by Rollins, but this was an important showing by Elias, who proved he can hang in the spotlight with one of the best in the business. The future is bright for the drifter.
Bobby Lashley def. Sami Zayn
After the mess that was the build-up to Sami Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley at Money in the Bank, it was all too appropriate that the match that hopefully signals the end of their rivalry was short and to the point.
Lashley won the match handily, thanks to a trio of delayed vertical suplexes and a spinebuster -- and with cross-dressing stand-ins for Lashley's sisters, an obstacle course and accusations of stolen valor behind us, let's hope there's somewhere better for each of these guys to go moving forward.
No matter how despicable Zayn has been over the past few weeks, there was very little that could've been done to get Zayn booed by a Chicago crowd -- or Lashley universally cheered, for that matter.
Zayn avoided all contact early on by sliding out of the ring twice, but on the second attempt, Lashley chased him. Lashley got a few licks in, but Zayn used the ropes to his full advantage and picked up some early offense that sent Lashley tumbling out of the ring. It was about as much of an advantage as he'd have throughout the match.
Lashley ultimately crushed Zayn's hand, which he hurt during a handshake a few weeks ago, and followed with a clothesline.
Zayn attempted a cross body from the middle rope, but Lashley caught him and tossed him overhead via crucifix suplex. Lashley ultimately hit a spinebuster and a delayed suplex, prompting Zayn to beg for mercy, but Lashley was having none of it. At the prompting of the crowd, Lashley repeated the delayed suplex, got Zayn up in a perpendicular torturer rack and then, as he got Zayn up a third time for the vertical suplex, finished things off.
Lashley's pin, which had him simply stick a hand on Zayn's chest, is not necessarily something most "good guys" would do, but considering how far Zayn pushed the boundaries of taste in this rivalry, it's a decisive close to a story that went off the rails in a hurry.
Daniel Bryan def. Big Cass
Some rivalries don't click, and it's not necessarily because the superstars in question aren't doing their part. Sometimes the timing of the particular feud is off. This is an example of that. Daniel Bryan made his triumphant in-ring return at WrestleMania, but that momentum was stalled so that he could play a role in Big Cass' development as a heel. While Cass is generating a good deal of heat -- as evidenced by a flurry of "Big Cass sucks" chants from the Chicago crowd tonight -- this program has stunted the progression of Bryan's comeback.
Tonight's chapter began as you'd expect, with each superstar displaying his calling card -- Bryan with quickness and Cass with power. Bryan focused on chopping down the giant by attacking Cass' leg, but power prevailed early on when Cass shoved Bryan off the ring apron into the barricade.
From there, the pace slowed dramatically as Cass pelted Bryan with strikes and taunted him in the process. The tenacious Bryan attempted several comebacks but was overpowered, most notably by way of a swinging side slam from the big man.
The tide began to turn when Cass charged at Bryan in the corner, and Bryan sidestepped him, sending Cass face-first into the middle turnbuckle. Bryan then continued to target the left leg of Cass, trying to soften him up for his patented heel hook.
Bryan continued his offensive onslaught and, out of nowhere, turned a tilt-a-whirl attempt by Cass into a Yes Lock, but Cass was able to wiggle his way to the ropes, breaking the hold. Bryan increased the tempo even further when Cass rolled to the outside of the ring. Bryan ascended the turnbuckle and launched himself to the outside of the ring onto Cass.
Cass had a devastating move in his arsenal too, though, as the two made their way back into the ring. From the middle turnbuckle, he nailed Bryan with a fallaway slam, ala the great JBL. He followed it with a reverse death-valley driver and shortly after, a huge boot to the face, but Bryan kicked out of both pinfall attempts.
However, after escaping a torture rack submission attempt by Cass, Bryan caught him with a running knee to the face and locked in the heel hook, forcing Cass to tap out.
Bryan's second consecutive pay-per-view submission victory over Cass likely puts an end to the lackluster rivalry, which benefits both men. Bryan can continue his ascension up the SmackDown Live ladder, and Cass can continue his progression elsewhere.
Having said all of that, tonight's bout was their best performance as adversaries.
SmackDown tag team championships: The Bludgeon Brothers (c) def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Winners and still SmackDown tag team champions, the Bludgeon Brothers. Fun kickoff show match - crowd was really hot for Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson and their mid-match comeback, but status quo to start Money in the Bank.
Still to come:
Raw women's championship: Nia Jax (c) vs. Ronda Rousey
Men's Money in the Bank ladder match: Braun Strowman vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz vs. Rusev vs. Bobby Roode vs. Kevin Owens vs. TBD (The New Day) vs. Samoa Joe